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Massachusetts Car Seat Laws

A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in Massachusetts

Massachusetts child car seat laws

  • The state, on its official website, recommends infants should ride on rear-facing seats until they are 1 year old.
  • Children 1-3 years should ride on forward-facing seats once they have exceeded the manufacturer’s limits for rear-facing seats.
  • Massachusetts car seat law requires children younger than 8 years who have a height of less than 4’9’’ to ride on a booster seat.
  • There is no official law that mentions the requirements for children to sit in the front seat.

Rear-facing Car Seat Laws in Massachusetts

While the official Massachusetts law does not cover requirements for rear-facing and forward-facing seats, the state on its official website recommends infants should ride on rear-facing seats until they are 1 year old. However, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends children use rear-facing seats for as long as possible or until they reach 2 years old. Convertible seats usually have higher weight limits (up to 40 pounds), so using them can allow you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period (up to age 4). This is beneficial because rear-facing seats protect your child’s fragile body parts like the neck and spine from injury. The seat should always face the rear of the car and be installed in the back seat away from an active airbag.

Forward-facing Car Seat Laws in Massachusetts

The state recommends transitioning children 1-3 years to forward-facing seats once they have exceeded the manufacturer’s limits for rear-facing seats. However, some children may be ready to transition at age 4 and remain forward-facing until age 7 (depending on the seat’s weight limit). A seat with a 5-point harness is preferable, and the harness straps should snugly fit above the child’s collarbone. You can use lap-only seat belts with tether straps or lap-shoulder belts. Some seats can accommodate children of up to 65 pounds, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s weight and height guidelines. The seat should be secured in the back seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Booster Seat Regulations in Massachusetts

Massachusetts car seat law requires children younger than 8 years who have a height of less than 4’9’’ and have outgrown the forward-facing car seat to ride on a federally approved booster seat. They are also required to remain in booster seats until they are big enough to fit in seat belts. Booster seats should be used with lap-shoulder belts. Never use a lap-only belt to secure a booster seat. This type of seat is used to lift a child so that safety belts can register a firm fit on the child’s body. The shoulder belt should lielow across the chest area, and the lap belt should cross the upper thighs. Before graduating your child to a safety belt, make sure he or she has exceeded the height and weight (up to 80 pounds) requirements. Typically, this happens when the child can sit with his or her back straight against the back of the seat and with knees bent at the edge of the seat without slouching. Also, the child’s height should be prioritized since seat belts are designed for people who have a height of 4’9” or more.

Requirements for children to use the front seat in Massachusetts

There is no official law that mentions the requirements for children to sit in the front seat. However, the state says children under 13 years should ride in the back seat because it is the safest. Most experts agree with this because front seats have airbags that are designed to deploy with great force, which can be dangerous to children. Also, children 8-12 years should be secured with seat belts (if it fits properly) during travel.

Car Seat Law regarding Cars without back seats in Massachusetts

If you are transporting a child in a car that lacks a back seat, you are allowed to place the child-safety seat in the front seat, as long as the airbag can be turned off manually. Do not ride with children in the cargo bed of a pick-up truck.

Law on leaving a child in a car in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the law is not clear when it comes to leaving children unsupervised inside vehicles. However, daycare providers are not allowed to leave children unattended inside vehicles. It is not clear whether this law applies to private vehicles. We recommend that you never leave your child unattended in a vehicle for any length of time.

Law on Smoking in a car with a child in Massachusetts

While it is not illegal to smoke in a car with child passengers, Massachusetts is trying to change the law to make it illegal to do so.

Second-hand car seats in Massachusetts

Parents are advised to do a background check on second-hand child-safety seats if they are planning to use one. They should check whether the seat was involved in a car crash, if the seat has an expiration date, if the seat has a recall (use the date of manufacture and model number to find out) and whether the seat has all its parts intact. If the seat has a recall, you should contact the manufacturer.

Car Seat Replacement in Massachusetts

The state requires parents to check the manufacturer’s instructions or whether the seat has an expiration date. Car seats involved in a car crash should not be reused.

Car Seat Laws Exemptions in Massachusetts

Commercial vehicles such as taxis and school buses are exempted from complying with the state’s car seat laws. Cars manufactured without seat belts before July, 1966, are exempted too. For children to be exempted, they have to be certified by a physician as having a disability or a physical issue that makes it unsuitable for them to ride on a child restraint system or a child restraint device specifically designed for children with special needs.

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